Five Questions for King James Only Believers—Part One

Title page from the original 1611 King James Version of the Bible.

The first Bible I ever owned was a King James Version that my parents gave me when I was about seven years old. I used it until I received a newer translation in my teenage years. Then in 2000–2001 I used the King James as my primary Bible again. It is one of many translations I have read all the way through, along with the NASB, NKJV, NIV (1984 and 2011), NET, ESV, HCSB, and the Lexham English Bible. I usually read a new translation each year, although I’ve repeated some of them, because I believe there is tremendous value in reading Scripture and discovering how translators have handled certain passages.

I have found strengths and weaknesses in each of the versions I’ve read, but there is one issue that frequently arises that needs to be addressed: the King James Only position. I have spoken with many people who believe the KJV is the only translation of Scripture we should use today. They often refer to it as the KJB, since they consider the King James to be the only Bible, and they don’t really consider the other translations to be legitimate versions. Proponents of this view will often attack fellow believers for using modern versions, which are often said to be based on Alexandrian texts and regularly called New Age Bible translations.

This view is to be distinguished from what has been called “Only King James” or “King James Preferred.” Those who hold these views might be uncomfortable using any version other than the King James, but they do not make a habit of ridiculing, admonishing, or condemning those who use other translations. I have a very good friend who has adopted this position, and I have no problem at all with someone preferring the King James over other versions. It’s a great translation, and God has used it to reach and teach millions of people over the past four centuries.

Years ago, I gave a talk on alleged Bible contradictions in which I showed two verses in the NKJV that are at odds (2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 22:2—was Ahaziah 22 or 42 years old when he became king?). This seems to be a classic “typo” made by a scribe somewhere along the way, and it seems rather obvious that he was 22 when he became king. If he were 42, then he would have been older than his father, Ahab. A little while after the talk, an angry woman approached and told me that had she been in there she would have immediately pulled her high school son out because the King James has the same figures in these verses as the NKJV, and I was attacking Scripture. In reality, my talk was all about defending Scripture and showing how to address alleged Bible contradictions. The next day of the conference, she handed me a copy of an attempt to reconcile the two figures by Peter Ruckman, a King James Onlyist (KJO) who utilized some of the most contorted interpretations I have ever read in an effort to save the idea that the King James Version is inerrant. Many similar experiences could be shared. (I’ll talk more about Mr. Ruckman in part 3 of this series.)

This post should not be viewed as an attack on the King James translation, although KJOs will undoubtedly see it as such. As mentioned before, I have read through the King James Version, and I greatly appreciate it. But I do have five sincere and pointed questions I would like to ask KJOs. So in a spirit of gentleness, I ask these questions because I would like for those who have adopted that position to think carefully about their own view and the claims many have made about other translations.

Question 1: Where does the Bible ever teach that the King James Bible would be the version through which God would preserve His Word?

Readers of this blog know that I strongly believe the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, inerrant, and infallible word of God. But the doctrine of inerrancy is usually defined as applying to the original manuscripts, and it only extends to the copies and translations insofar as they accurately represent the original documents.

Did God Promise to Preserve His Word?

A common response in the literature of KJOs is to cite Psalm 12:6–7.

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.”

This image proudly uses the quote from Ecclesiastes 8:4 and references Psalm 12:6–7, both of which are misused in defense of the KJV Only position. (Image from Now the End Begins website)

Even if these verses are referring to God preserving His word, where does it say that He would do this only in an English Bible translated 2600 years after this psalm was written by David? It doesn’t, so this passage does not answer the question because it says nothing about the King James Bible. Also, if the KJO interpretation is correct, then wouldn’t this also mean that God was lying since He apparently did not preserve His word from sometime soon after the New Testament was composed until the KJV was translated?

But there is a bigger problem with this response. Not only does it say nothing about the King James, the preservation referred to here is almost certainly not about the Lord’s words, even though that’s how it appears in English. The problem is that English doesn’t have gender for words as do many other languages, like Hebrew. When the text states that God will preserve “them” it uses a masculine pronoun, so it refers back to a masculine noun. The “words” that are “pure words” in verse 6 are feminine in Hebrew, so “them” does not refer to the Lord’s words. Instead, “them” refers back to verse 5: “‘For the oppression of the poor (masculine), for the sighing of the needy (masculine), now I will arise,” says the Lord; ‘I will set him in the safety for which he (masculine, obviously) yearns.’”

So these verses are not even about God preserving His words, even though I believe He has done that, but not on the basis of this verse. Instead, they are about God preserving the poor and needy mentioned by David from their oppressors.

The Word of the King Is Powerful

Another response from KJOs to this question is to cite Ecclesiastes 8:4, which states, “Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him, ‘What are you doing?’”

It should be rather obvious that this verse has nothing to do with the alleged superiority of the King James Version over other translations. The writer is simply saying that that a citizen should obey his king. Verse 2 states, “Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God.” And verse 5 states, “He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful…” To employ this verse in defense of the KJO position is to abuse and twist Scripture by yanking a verse so far out of its context to make it mean something that no one would ever see without KJO-colored glasses. Besides, if another king commissioned the translation of the Bible, would we then need to view that one as the “Authorized Version”? King Henry VIII authorized the Great Bible (1539) by Myles Coverdale. If we use Ecclesiastes 8:4 as some KJOs do, then perhaps the Great Bible should be viewed as the Authorized Version.

Summary

So the answer to the first question is that the Bible never tells us that God would provide the world with an infallible English Bible, let alone a particular version published in 1611. So those who hold this position must base their arguments on something outside of Scripture. Most of the time, it comes down to one’s preference or what they’ve been taught. Essentially, KJOs have put their opinion or preference about Scripture on the same level as Scripture. But there is another approach—KJOs will claim that all the newer Bibles have errors in them, so we need to stick with the King James. This leads naturally to the next three questions:

– Is it a sin to use a Bible that has mistakes?
– Why is the King James Version missing verses or parts of verses?
– Why does the King James Version add verses or parts of verses?

The first of these two questions listed above are addressed here: Five Questions: Part Two.
The third question and an additional question are addressed here: Five Questions: Part Three.

I understand that this topic can be quite sensitive and I will do my best to be kind in my questioning and explanations. If you plan to reply to this series of posts, please be sure to read all three posts and keep it civil. Thanks for reading!

About Tim Chaffey

I am the founder of Midwest Apologetics and work as the Content Manager with the Attractions Division of Answers in Genesis. I have written (or co-authored) several books, including In Defense of Easter, God and Cancer, The Sons of God and the Nephilim, and The Truth Chronicles Series (see the publications page for more details). Please note: the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Answers in Genesis.

Comments

Five Questions for King James Only Believers—Part One — 11 Comments

  1. I look forward to reading this. All my life I have been told KJV is the closest to God’s inspired word, in fact my father-in law is a Ruckman follower and when I gave him the online bible years ago he never used it because it had other versions inside. I prefer the KJV and will read what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  2. Hi Tim. Looking forward to more of your series. I have read several versions of the Bible, cover to cover, and I have been blessed by God in each. While I do use the KJV as my main bible, I use many versions in studying and sermon preparation. Thank you for addressing a difficult issue among believers. We must stop the squabbling and allow God to speak to each of us individually with whatever version of the truth each is comfortable with. God Bless you in the series.

  3. As we see now, AiG is fully attacking the KJB. We first saw this with Sarfati attacking the KJB in Australia.

    • You are wrong on several counts. First, this is my personal blog and does not represent AiG, which does not use the KJV as its default version. Second, Dr. Sarfati has not been part of AiG for over ten years. Third, this series is not an attack on the King James Version of the Bible. So asking where the Bible says that the KJV is the Bible in which God would preserve His word is an attack on the King James Version? Perhaps you could answer the question posed in the article instead of making false accusations.
      If you can show me from Scripture where I’ve made an error, I’d be happy to offer a retraction and make the change in the article.

      • You said you believe in a inerrant, infallible , word of God but never state what are where it is. God preserves his word. Isaiah 28:11-15 My be worth looking at. Also God is a God of the living. If you claim his word is in a Dead language you don’t know my God.

        • Jason,
          Thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave some comments. Where did I ever claim that His word is in a dead language? Hebrew and Greek are still spoken today. I don’t know of any place that speaks Early Modern English, which is what the KJV is written in. What does God being a God of the living have to do with any proposed dead language? That’s not an accurate application of that biblical phrase.
          Also, please tell me how Isaiah 28:11–15 has any bearing on this matter. Here is the passage:

          11 For with stammering lips and another tongue
          He will speak to this people,
          12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which
          You may cause the weary to rest,”
          And, “This is the refreshing”;
          Yet they would not hear.
          13 But the word of the LORD was to them,
          “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
          Line upon line, line upon line,
          Here a little, there a little,”
          That they might go and fall backward, and be broken
          And snared and caught.
          14 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men,
          Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
          15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
          And with Sheol we are in agreement.
          When the overflowing scourge passes through,
          It will not come to us,
          For we have made lies our refuge,
          And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.” (Isaiah 28:11–15, NKJV)

          In these verses God warns the leaders of Judah in Jerusalem that He is going to judge them with people who speak a different language. They refused to obey the word God had already given to them precept upon precept and line upon line. God had given them plain instructions and they refused to obey, so He planned to judge them with a foreign people.
          How are those words supposed to support the idea that the King James Version is the version of Scripture through which God would preserve His word?
          Did you really just question my salvation because I asked a question about the King James Version? That’s what you implied by saying that I don’t know your God. Does Romans 10:9 add a condition about believing that only the KJV is inspired to the gospel message? I don’t remember seeing that in there. If you think one must believe in King James Onlyism to be saved, then you have added to the gospel message of Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins and His subsequent burial and Resurrection.

  4. I had never heard Psalm 12 taken out of context like that by any KJV-Onlyists, but if anyone ever does, I’ll know how to handle it.

    And by the way, most KJV-Onlyists have never learned the original languages…and probably don’t want to.

  5. Where does the Bible ever teach that any version or collection of versions would be the version through which God would preserve His Word?

    • Hi Peter,
      I am not aware of anything in the Bible that speaks of God preserving His word in a particular version. Jesus did speak of His word never passing away (Matthew 24:35), and there are several similar passages about the supremacy and unbreakable nature of God’s word. From those and many other passages, I believe we can make a strong case that Scripture teaches that God will preserve His word. Nevertheless, it never explains precisely how this would be done, and it certainly does not tell us which version we should be reading.

  6. Hi Tim. I appreciate this series. This is something that I face all the time and Psalm 12:6-7 is always brought up. Your points on this verse make perfect sense. I can’t wait to see the rest. Thanks!

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